Death Trance

Let me drop in here for a little bit and give the next review in my series “Only the Best Asian Cinema Bought For the Discerning Shopper of Wal-Mart”: another action title, called “Death Trance”. I love a rich, compelling arthouse flick as much as anyone else, but sometimes the brain is dead after a long, hard day of bitshuffling. And when the brain is dead it wants only two things: booze and women. Unfortunately, woman is not always on hand, in which case the brain will settle for people beating the crap out of each other.

Forget about the plot of Death Trance, it’s really just an excuse for people to beat the crap out of each other.

Okay, a little more detail: Death Trance is directed by Yuji Shimomura, notoriously the action director of Versus, and just as notoriously the director for the video game Devil May Cry 3, and stars the borderline-crazy Tak Sakaguchi (also of Versus – and man, finding out that he’s in the Cromartie High School movie just makes me want to see it more). The slight nod to a plot is that a coffin, which supposedly grants the wishes of whoever brings it to the Cursed Forest ™, is stolen from the monestary which has been guarding it all these years. Of course, the monks know that actually sealed inside the coffin is a demon who could destroy the world.

Death Trance

The rest is essentially It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World set to fisticuffs. That is, it’s a vehicle for Shimomura to show off his action directing chops, especially with Sakaguchi, who enthusiastically uses a style of fighting closer to street fighting. A few different groups and loners successively fight over the coffin, with Sakaguchi generally kicking gratuitous amount of ass when he’s on camera. If you liked the darkly humorous tone of Versus, then you should like this as well, though I’d say this is more actiony than humorous.

The action sequences are inventive and enjoyable, though the second half begins to drag a bit, and watching Sakaguchi waltz around and beat up hordes of obviously inferior adversaries gets to be a bit boring after awhile. The biggest disappointment is the final battle, which sadly is an overstylized, overedited snooze fest. But when you get tired of the action, you can look at its other saving grace – its amazing sense of design. The inventiveness and attention to detail on the costuming, props, and few sets that were used, I found frankly astonishing, and I hope whoever’s responsible for it gets more work, and soon. By now, though, I’ve probably written more words than it deserves. So if you want a break, have a drink and watch Death Trance.

—Teki

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~ by teki on October 10, 2007.

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